Vanguard GPs open shared branch surgery to deliver seven-day access for 70,000 patients

GPs in south-west England will open a shared branch surgery to deliver 8am to 8pm access seven days a week to 70,000 patients as part of an NHS vanguard scheme.

Dr Nigel Watson: vanguard to deliver seven-day GP access (Photo: JH Lancy)
Dr Nigel Watson: vanguard to deliver seven-day GP access (Photo: JH Lancy)

Seven practices in one of three localities within the South Hampshire vanguard will open the shared facility at a community hospital run by a provider which is a partner in the vanguard scheme.

Radical changes implemented in the area have also seen one GP practice – struggling to recruit after the retirement of five partners – effectively taken over by the community provider, Southern Health. The takeover could become a template for other practices where GPs are looking to step back from practice management responsibility to focus more on clinical care.

The vanguard scheme has also put in place measures to integrate GP services with both community and hospital care.

Seven-day general practice

The 8am to 8pm primary care centre will open next week at Lymington hospital, in the New Forest, Hampshire.

Wessex LMCs chief executive Dr Nigel Watson, a New Forest GP and chair of the vanguard scheme, told GPonline: ‘We are developing a primary care centre, opening next week, staffed by GPs but based in hospital.’

The facility was ‘not a walk-in centre’, he said. ‘It’s pre-booked appointments only, joined into the GP records of all seven practices in the locality. It will give practices extra capacity to provide appointments later and might stop some people going to A&E.’

The centre will be open seven days a week from 8am to 8pm, and will be staffed by a mix of newly recruited GPs, GPs who have left partnerships locally, and partners from the seven practices.

GP recruitment crisis

‘Some partners will take on extra staff in their practices and do sessions at the new centre,’ said Dr Watson.

‘We’ll be employing three full-time GPs and three nurse practitioners. There will be one GP in the daytime and two evening and weekends.

‘The idea is to focus attention on times when practices are not open. Patients can ring their practice to book an appointment at the centre, or they can phone the primary care centre direct.’

In Gosport, the community provider took over a practice that lost five out of six partners in a short space of time.

Southern Health has put mental health and community nursing staff from its other services into the GP practice to boost capacity and ease pressure on GPs.

The vanguard is using this example to explore how a practice can function within a large accountable care organisation, maintaining clinical autonomy but with partners relieved of HR and other practice management duties.

For partners fed up with long leases and recruitment problems, there may be lessons to learn ‘for practices that may not be in crisis but want an option for the future’, says Dr Watson.

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